March 28, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 87


March 27, 2023

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Private Sector Union Membership Rate Declines in 2022

The union membership rate among private sector workers fell to 6.0% in 2022, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) news release. This is down from 6.1% in 2021 and continues the overall decline since private sector union membership peaked in the mid-1950s.

While organizing activity increased in 2022 (including workers at high-profile employers petitioning to unionize for the first time), the size of the national workforce also grew in 2022, compared to the prior year. Thus, unions would have had to grow membership even more significantly to maintain or improve the national membership rate. Indeed, the number of union members in the private sector increased by 193,000 in 2022.

Industries with some of the highest unionization rates include transportation and utilities (15.2%), motion pictures and sound recording (17.3%), and construction (11.7%). Despite the uptick in organizing activity in the retail and fast-food industries last year, unionization in retail trade decreased to 4.3% (down from 4.4% in 2021) and accommodation and food services remained at 2.0%.

Union membership increased in 2022 in many states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Texas.

The BLS data reinforces a 2022 Gallup survey that reported that, while 71% of the U.S. population views union favorably, 58% of nonunion workers are “not interested at all” in actually joining a union. Likewise, the data shows that much of the high-profile organizing activity seen throughout the country involved only a small percentage of the overall workforce.

Nevertheless, 2022 witnessed an increase in employee activism, an uptick in walk outs and work stoppages, and an effort by “home grown” labor organizations to seek representation. Moreover, momentum from recent high-profile unionizing successes should not be overlooked. It is all the more important that employers continue to engage in the everyday blocking and tackling, by promoting positive employee relations, addressing employee issues and concerns at the first-line supervisory level, and taking the necessary steps to be an employer of choice.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2023National Law Review, Volume XIII, Number 19

About this Author

Edward M. Cherof Employment lawyer Jackson Lewis

Edward M. Cherof is a Principal in the Atlanta, Georgia, office of Jackson Lewis P.C.  He is also the co-leader of the firm’s Workplace Training Practice Group.

Since joining the firm in 1986, Mr. Cherof has represented employers in all aspects of labor and employment law and litigation. He has extensive experience providing employers with strategic advice relating to union organizing and in proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board. He also regularly assists clients in addressing the full scope of employment law matters, including those arising...

Laura Pierson-Scheinberg Employment Lawyer Jackson Lewis

Laura A. Pierson-Scheinberg is a Principal in the San Francisco, California, and Baltimore, Maryland, offices of Jackson Lewis P.C.

Ms. Pierson-Scheinberg represents employers in labor and employment matters, with a particular focus on traditional labor issues, union elections and unfair labor practice charges. She has extensive experience in collective bargaining, from serving as chief spokesperson to developing strategy behind the scenes. Her background includes bargaining for both large and small clients from a local to a national level in a wide range of...

Jonathan J. Spitz, Jackson Lewis Law Firm, Labor Employment Attorney, Atlanta

Jonathan J. Spitz is a Principal in the Atlanta, Georgia, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the firm’s Labor and Preventive Practices Group.

Mr. Spitz lectures extensively, conducts management training, and advises clients with respect to legislative and regulatory initiatives, corporate strategies, business ethics, social media issues and the changing regulatory landscape. He understands the practical and operational needs of corporate America, helping design pragmatic strategies to minimize risk and maximize performance. He has represented...

Richard F. Vitarelli Harford  Connecticut Labor Relations Lawyer at Jackson Lewis Law Firm

Richard F. Vitarelli is a Principal in the Hartford, Connecticut, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Part of the firm’s national labor practice, he has over two decades of experience representing employers nationally in strategic labor relations, collective bargaining, and union organizing, including in the context of mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring and contract administration. He serves as general labor and employment counsel for employers and multi-employer associations in various industries, including construction, manufacturing, health care and senior living,...